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The 6 Main Dog Personalities: Genetics and Environment Shape Behaviours

Research shows a dog’s personality stems from genetic predisposition and life experiences. Learn what shapes shy, anxious, independent or calm dog behaviours.

The Dog's Personality: Insecure Or Serene?

The dog personalities vary from subject to subject. So the question is: are they born with specific characteristics, do they develop them as they grow, or is it somewhere in between?

Dogs, like humans, can be very different from each other, both physically and mentally. Sometimes, these differences are superficially defined as insecurity or confidence, nervousness or calmness, super sociability or less pleasantness, aggressiveness or submissiveness, and so on. Little value is given to the genetic and environmental components that influence the dog’s true nature as an adult.

How is the dog’s personality created?

So, what does a dog’s personality stem from? It all starts with a purely genetic element, so the subject is predisposed to thinking or behaving in a certain way at birth.

But genetic predisposition is not the only factor; there are several that, together with life experiences, can significantly shape a dog’s nature or behaviour, for better or worse.

We must be aware of these because this is how we can intervene. Scholars of dog behaviour have selected six leading dog personalities. In this article, we will analyse them together.

1. The dog’s shy or nervous personality.

The shy or nervous personality of the dog.
The most accepted theory nowadays is that 50% of a dog’s temperament is innate.

Dogs with more nervous genetic personalities are relatively easy to spot as they never seem at ease, apart from anything other than the most familiar home environment. They are usually seen cowering, shivering, and constantly hiding or climbing on their owners’ legs outside for more excellent safety and security. They have no sense of social curiosity when they meet other people or dogs on a walk and seem to want to get away from them as quickly as possible.

Shy/nervous dogs can be recognised by their tendency to hide, tremble and try to climb onto their owner’s legs.

Dogs like these can also have sensory problems; visual or auditory novelty makes them considerably more nervous. Many can also be quite vocal and reactive: they bark or get excited at anything that unnerves them, hoping to redeem some of this inner anxiety or make what they dislike disappear.

Causes

External factors that worsen the behaviour of these dogs include coming from an isolated kennel and having been deprived of life experience, such as intensive puppy farms (“also called puppy factories”); coming from breeding farms, including private ones, where the dog’s more comprehensive socialisation was not started early enough, either by the breeder or the owner (from when the dog is four weeks old onwards).

Furthermore, the owners may also be one of the determining factors. These often allow their dogs to continue to avoid facing what they fear by indulging their demand for attention or, in the case of smaller dogs, by taking them in their arms.

Some reward the dog for nervous behaviour, perhaps hoping to comfort it. The correct behaviour we should have instead is to allow them to learn how to deal with different social encounters independently.

If we cannot socialise a shy or nervous puppy dog to the best of our ability, it is a good idea to seek help from a professional immediately because, once an adult, the dog will pay the price.

2. The dog’s insecure or addicted personality.

Dogs with this behaviour are considerably more attached to their owners, if not wholly clingy, and never want to venture too far from them. At more extreme levels, they will even need to follow them from room to room in the house, wherever they go. While not openly nervous, like shy dogs, they can be more socially reserved and less interested in interacting with other people or dogs.

Indulging insecure/addictet dogs only reinforces their fear and distrust. It would be better to let them cope with new experiences.

Pros and cons

Overall, insecure or addicted dogs can become pretty easy companions due to their higher level of willingness. This can also make them much easier to train as they live to please their owners. However, this personality type also makes them more prone to separation problems and higher levels of distress when separated from their owner.

Causes

External factors that can worsen this type of behaviour include the following: the dog is never taught from the moment it arrives in the family how best to cope with separation from its owner, starting with small daily introductions of isolation even when the owner is at home.

Dogs of this type can benefit significantly from self-confidence-boosting exercises, such as finding rewards scattered around the house, games, or other tasks that allow them to work out challenges or problems to solve on their own instead of always expecting the owner to solve them for them, which further increases their sense of dependence.

3. The dog’s personality is insecure, controlling or reactive.

3. The dog's personality is insecure, controlling or reactive.
The character of our faithful furry friend can change for various reasons and become more docile, friendly or even more reclusive and grumpy.

In these dogs, an intrinsic sense of insecurity manifests in a more obsessive desire or need to control all aspects of their lives. These individuals are more likely to protect objects such as toys, food bowls, beds or even their owners if they feel others might get too close to them.

Insecure/Control/Reactive dogs are individuals who tend to protect both objects and people.

They will also cope less well with any changes in their daily routine. They will always try to take charge of social encounters, with more psychologically pressurising and manipulative behaviour (such as barking, whining and pawing) or even aggression. They will generally be warier than people or dogs they do not know.

Causes

External factors that can worsen this behaviour include the owner not recognising, early enough, the dangers inherent in dogs with this type of personality and not setting more comprehensive limits on what they can do or have access to and when.

Suppose the dog chooses to exercise its compulsive need for control through increasingly aggressive behaviour. In that case, it is advisable to seek professional help immediately and not wait until it becomes an even bigger problem.

4. The dog’s personality is highly driven, obsessive, and reactive.

Generally, these dogs come from working breeds such as Border Collies or Spaniels, deliberately bred to have high levels of physical and mental energy and constantly need a target. Among them, we can also include the breed of terriers, in which, in the past, high sprinting and reactivity skills were required for work purposes.

However, the same characteristics can be quite demanding in today’s homes, where a simple companion dog is required. At the heart of the problem is the question of impulse control, or drives, i.e. how quickly the dog enters a state of mental arousal and how quickly it can delay or prevent this mental arousal from turning into a physical reaction.

The latter can be chasing something, attacking or indulging in some more manic and obsessive pattern of behaviour.

Causes

External factors that can worsen this behaviour include not recognising these mental characteristics and impulses in these dogs early enough so that instead of being controlled, they can handle any situation as they please with the proper training (especially by teaching better impulse control). Thus, the misbehaviour becomes more and more ingrained through constant repetition. As always, seeking expert help before it is too late is advisable.

5. The dog’s personality is independent.

6. The dog's personality is very calm.
Some breeds have more pronounced instincts than others.

Independent dogs are considerably more detached and less driven by the desire to please or collaborate with others, including their owners. This, in turn, can make them more challenging to train and certainly less playful or socially extroverted in their encounters with other dogs.

One must always bear in mind that we are talking about single individuals with different personalities and behaviours that may even overlap.

In many ways, they represent the more adult nature of the dog rather than the eternal puppy aspect. We have deliberately bred this latter aspect only recently to make them much easier to train or control as pets.

On the other hand, independent individuals may be much less interested in play, be warier than strangers and form only a few meaningful social bonds with others in their lives, usually dogs or people they have known since their early years.

Causes

External factors that can worsen the behaviour of these dogs include owners who do not realise that these types of dogs need to establish a relationship of trust and cooperation as early as possible, i.e. from the time they are puppies. With these dogs, one must arm oneself with patience and work hard by constantly rewarding them for any act of concentration or cooperation.

Left free to think or act independently as puppies, they will grow into more muscular adult dogs with less aptitude for obedience. These dogs often spend most of their lives on a leash, as they cannot be trusted to return once they are free.

6. The dog’s personality is very calm.

Naturally outgoing, adaptable and helpful, these dogs create minor worries for their owners regarding behavioural problems. Unlike other canine personalities, they tend to trust anyone; even if they encounter something new, it does not bother them.

They are called ‘friendlier dogs‘ when they may be more conflict-averse. They are less obsessed with control and more inclined to avoid contentious situations with peacemaking tactics or retreat to keep the peace. Owners worldwide may take credit for the behaviour of dogs like these, but much of it is due to an inherently more accessible genetic nature.

The change in the dog

Owners often say: “My dog was fine when he was a puppy, and then he developed this or that problem only later”. But adolescence is the classic time when underlying problems intrinsic to his nature emerge.

A dog’s personality is never set in stone during the puppyhood period. It can continue to evolve and change for the better over time, also depending on the work and effort an owner puts into guiding their dog.

These are usually things like increased fear, anxiety, neurosis or aggression. Awareness of the mental and behavioural changes that can occur in any dog during this phase is imperative. Some may only be transitory, but others may need help and guidance from more experts to resolve or nip them in the bud.

Overlapping personalities in dogs

Overlapping personalities in dogs.
The owner’s habits influence the dog’s character.

This article highlights what is considered to be the key personality and genetic profiles in dogs. However, it must be borne in mind that we are always talking about single individuals with different personalities and behaviours that may also overlap.

Some dogs with high drive, for example, may also be highly dependent on their owner, and some shy/controlling dogs will use submission strategies rather than aggression to get what they want.

Thank you for reading the article to the end. Your reading contribution was significant to us.

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The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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Written by Frenchie Breed

The "Frenchie Breed" website is a blog aimed at dog owners. We regularly publish articles about our four-legged furry friends. Among the contents of our blog, you will find ample space on the latest news in the sector, with information and in-depth analysis dedicated to the world of dogs in all its forms, the latest trends and news of the moment, curious facts, events devoted to dogs, product reviews, as well as an intense activity of information regarding the health and well-being of pets.

Please Note: The articles in the 'Frenchie Breed Blog' are for information purposes only; nothing published can or should be construed as an attempt to offer professional advice or consultation with a physician, veterinary surgeon or another health professional.

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